For those of you who aren't already familiar, I wanted to put together a thorough, comprehensive review of a website known as BiggerPockets.
BiggerPockets is an online community that was founded by Joshua Dorkin in 2004. The original idea behind the website was to create a space where real estate investors could ask questions, get answers and exchange ideas without the information being twisted by sales pitches and propaganda.
The idea seems to be working. Over the past decade, the website has generated an enormous following. Here are some recent statistics on the site (as of October 2013):
- Approx 500,000 Monthly Unique Visitors
- Over 141,000 Registered Members
- 80,000+ Newsletter Subscribers
- Highest Rated Real Estate Podcast on iTunes (approx 14,000 listens per show)
These kinds of stats are a pretty clear indication that people see the value in BiggerPockets. I found this video on the BiggerPockets YouTube Channel a few months ago (this was actually posted in 2010) and I found it pretty interesting.
I know of a few other websites that have attempted to create this kind of “online community for real estate investors” in the past, but I don't know of anyone who has had the patience and drive to actually implement it over the long haul. Being a real estate blogger, I know that it can be a massive undertaking to create and maintain a website that people actually care about. It requires a serious level of time and mental energy – and retaining this interest and keeping people engaged month after month, year after year isn't going to happen to any site unless something really special is going on.
With a similar concept to some of the other well-known social media outlets of our time, BP gives users the ability to create a detailed personal profile, connect directly with other investors (via “colleague requests”), send messages back & forth and openly discuss questions/issues/ideas on the BP forum. The site is meeting a lot of previously unmet needs in the real estate community and this can be seen pretty clearly by the site's sky-rocketing growth in recent years.
My Experience With BiggerPockets
I discovered BiggerPockets in November of 2012 and from what I've seen over the past 12 months – this website is an amazing resource. I've spent many hours in the forums, listened to several of their podcast episodes and just recently signed on as a contributor for the BiggerPockets Blog.
What I like about the site is that there are A LOT of people involved and most of them really seem to care. Whatever your niche of real estate, there is a high likelihood that if you ask a question in this community you'll find some legitimate answers. Of course, you still need to take all information with a grain or two of salt (not everybody knows what they're talking about), but there are a lot of smart people in this community. At the very least, you're likely to get some outside insights from people who can view your situation from a different perspective (and who don't have an agenda to sell you something).
Unlike most real estate websites, BiggerPockets focuses pretty heavily on delivering real value, free of charge. Don't get me wrong – they sell things too (pro memberships, books, ad space, affiliate products, etc), but they've been pretty successful at offering these things in a way that comes across as secondary, value-added resources. The typical user can navigate through the website and get what they came for without being bombarded and distracted by the kind of hard-selling “cheese” that we're all so accustomed to in the real estate industry.
Where The Value Is At
In my opinion, the real “meat & potatoes” of BiggerPockets can be boiled down to three primary pillars: The Forum, The Blog, and The Podcast. These areas of the site seem to draw in the most traffic and discussion about what is going on in our industry today. Each of these outlets pumps out a regular stream of value-laden content that most real estate websites simply aren't capable of producing.
In my experience, this is where most of the magic happens. The forum is extremely well-moderated, easy to use and chocked FULL of investors with decades of experience. If I had known about this forum 5 years ago, I probably could have saved myself thousands of dollars on real estate courses that couldn't hold a candle to the kind of experience that is represented in this highly-active discussion board.
The folks at BP are well aware of the real estate gurus of the world and they are pretty adamant about defending their space from ANY person who comes across as though they're trying to spam the community or send people to some third-party sales page. If you're heading into this community with the intent of finding customers to buy your stuff, you'd better be ready to build real relationships, contribute meaningful ideas to the discussion and prove your value the old-fashioned way.
Given how abundant and intrusive these kinds of “pitch-fests” have become in the world of real estate investing, the level of attention that the moderators give to each of these forums is (in my opinion), completely necessary and highly effective.
BiggerPockets actually has two different blogging arenas hosted on the website. One is the BiggerPockets Blog, which includes thousands of high-quality posts from experienced real estate investors and bloggers. The content from this blog gets picked up pretty regularly by some of the major news outlets like Reuters, Fox Business News, AOL Real Estate, MSN Real Estate, NPR, Bloomberg, Washington Post, CBS News: Moneywatch, LinkedIn and the like.
There is also the Member Blogs area, which is something that anyone can pursue and post to at their leisure. I've actually been surprised to see some very high-quality posts in this area that included a lot of great information… so while these posts don't get promoted to quite as large of an audience, it really is worth paying attention to.
If you've spent much time in the blogosphere, you know that blogs can be hit or miss (regardless of the website or genre). Some bloggers put a lot of effort into their website and it shows. Others don't seem to care much about the quality of their content (which just leads me to wonder why they do it in the first place). I've been pretty pleased to see the level of quality and thought that goes into all of the BiggerPockets Blogs and based on the fact that everyone in the industry seems to recognize it as one of the best real estate websites out there – they're clearly doing something right.
The BP Podcast is kind of a big deal. At the time of this writing, these guys are the highest rated real estate podcast on iTunes (which translates to a huge audience and a lot of influence).
Most of the episodes focus on interviews with various experts in the industry, some of which are more well-known than others. Many of the guests are chosen from the BiggerPockets community, which admittedly contains a lot of experts in various niches of real estate. As with any podcast, you'll probably find that some of the episodes will resonate more than others (depending on what your specific areas of interest are) but based on the overall rating in iTunes, the show is clearly a hit with the listeners.
BiggerPockets – Through the eyes of a real estate blogger
I must say, I have a huge appreciation for the resource that BiggerPockets has been to me and many others. Furthermore, I appreciate what this website stands for in the world of real estate investing.
The beauty behind the BiggerPockets community is that it isn't designed to push any single person's agenda. Everyone has a voice, and if someone disagrees with someone else, they're allowed to say so. It's a lot easier for people to keep each other honest when there are checks and balances. Just because I publish something in one of my blog posts doesn't mean I'm the “ultimate authority” on a subject. And just because someone boldly proclaims their opinion in the BP forum, doesn't mean they won't be questioned if their proclamation doesn't make sense.
Are there things about the site that could be improved? Probably. Though I must say that given everything this website has done for a group of people that desperately needs it – it's really difficult for me to nit-pick and find problems with the service they provide (for free, I might add).
If you haven't taken the time to explore the BiggerPockets community yet, I would strongly recommend that you do it right now. Wherever you're at in your real estate investing journey, I'm willing to bet you'll find something worthwhile.